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Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling:…

Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling: A Novel (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Michael Boccacino

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7812156,384 (3.64)11
Title:Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling: A Novel
Authors:Michael Boccacino
Info:William Morrow Paperbacks (2012), Edition: Original, Paperback, 320 pages
Collections:Your library, Favorites
Tags:gothic, horror

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Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling: A Novel by Michael Boccacino (2012)


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I'm not a stickler for historical accuracy, so I definitely enjoyed the atmosphere of this story, even if it didn't exactly fit into any specific time period. It's dark and full of creepy characters, huge manors, forests, and thick fogs, as one would expect from the cover, and the lack of detail when it comes to the development of any characters except for Charlotte makes it mysterious, in a good way. Everyone except Charlotte felt a little surreal to me because of this lack of detail, as if Charlotte were moving through a dream world. This might be good or bad, depending on the reader's personal taste. If you're looking for an epic journey full of character development, this is not the book for you.

I'm also pretty sure that, in my haste to find out what happened, I missed out on much of the deeper message of this story. I found the "politics" of The Ending a little confusing--we're meant to understand that there's some big conflict going on, but the players in this conflict, as well as the reasons for it, are left quite vague. Charlotte and Mr. Whatley seem to be playing some kind of game that Charlotte suddenly understands but does not explain to the reader, so one gets a hint of a plot being afoot but cannot grasp exactly what it is, and I think we were supposed to be able to understand. I'm sure that there were complex ideas about death, life, mortality, and so on hidden within the story, but I definitely didn't get them on the first pass. That said, the story was still interesting and the fantastical characters and objects in the House of Darkling were interesting to read about. Boccacino conjures up great images that make the reader want to "see" more of his strange inventions.

A couple of things that rubbed me the wrong way about this book:

1) The boys seemingly being raised and educated as if they were the same age, when there is, in fact, an important age difference between them. James is barely old enough to be in kindergarten, while his brother is a teenager, and yet, minus James' occasional bad behaviour, characteristic of someone his age, they seem to behave in much the same way. They also sleep in the same room, are educated about the same topics in the same ways, and are both often treated like little children in general. Not being a history buff, I don't know if this was common at one point, but it ends up making Paul seem immature for his age or James seem too mature for his age, depending on the reader's interpretation.

2) Mr. Darrow instantly believing Charlotte when she reveals the existence of the House of Darkling to him. Yes, he has seen one fantastical thing attack Susannah, but is that really enough to make a rational man believe that an entire other dimension exists? Seems a little far-fetched.

3) Mr. Darrow not being supremely angry about Charlotte possibly losing his only two children to another dimension full of creepy immortal monsters forever. He just accepts it and goes, "Okay, let's get them back." Is Mr. Darrow even human? Despite his budding romantic relationship with Charlotte, he doesn't seem to have very many human feelings, except when they might be useful to add some drama to the story.

Even though I didn't love everything about it, I would still give Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling a second read, in the interest of grasping the deeper messages I really feel are lurking in there. It's not a book that you'll deeply regret missing out on if you don't get the chance to pick it up, but it's a good read if you like this kind of thing. ( )
  athenaharmony | Jul 13, 2014 |
Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling by Michael Boccacino is a strange and wonderful gothic tale of other worlds blending with our own and the consequences that fall from it. It is a fable told in the old way, not the sanitized Disney versions we feed our children, but the dark and bloody tales we keep to ourselves and only recall when it is late and dark at night.

..."No one ever comes back," I said.
James pulled his face away from the skirts of the mystery woman, and looked her over carefully before returning my pleading gaze with a confused expression. In his eyes I could see that there was no doubt the woman he clung to was his mother.
Paul didn't bother to remove his head from the other woman's shoulder. He had awoken from his nightmare and it had all been some terrible misunderstanding. Everything he hoped for had come true.
"But she has. She's alive again."...

Charlotte Markham, the Governess to James and Paul Darrow is awoken from a dream by the screams of a woman. She goes downstairs and is related the tale of a murder and the victim being the boy's own Nanny. Charlotte, a widow herself, must take into her care the boys and their father Henry, who themselves had recently buried the Lady of the house, Lily Darrow. So soon after the loss of their mother, the boys are subjected to another terrible loss. The murder of their Nanny.
One day after lessons, they wonder into the woods surrounding their estate and come upon a path not seen before. A path that leads them to a new place. The House of Darkling. Where they find the living Lily Darrow. But is she still alive? Or something else. Charlotte knows she must unravel this and yet is grieved to tear their children away from the mother they have found again.

..."What do you make of spirits?"
He looked disappointed. "I wouldn't know. I don't touch the stuff. Man of the cloth, you know."
"Not spirits, spirits. As in apparitions of the formerly living."
He paused and rubbed his chin. "Well, I can't say that I've ever seen one." He looked at me strangely, as if I'd suddenly grown a pair of horns.
I quickly elaborated. "Neither have I, of course. But I've been reading the children ghost stories, and James asked me if all spirits were evil..."

Charlotte watches the boys as they visit their mother at the House of Darkling and comes to find that it's inhabitants are not just spirits or human at all. But are the creatures of fable and legend. Creatures much darker and deadlier than the stories that are told of them.
It is here in the House of Darkling that Charlotte must battle against these creatures and the master of the house as she tries to save the souls of the boys; James and Paul. And in doing so, perhaps even save herself.
Michael Boccacino has crafted a well written fable of loss and pain and the inevitability of death. For human and inhuman alike.
A good read. ( )
  agarcia85257 | Jan 4, 2014 |
A beautiful, lyrical Gothic novel - taking cues from Gaiman, Henry James, and the Brontes in equal measure. It's a terrific exploration of death and loss as well as a fantastic spooky English autumn tale. While the ending is a little rote and rushed, it's still all beautifully written and well worth your time this fall.

More about it at RB: http://wp.me/pGVzJ-rb ( )
  drewsof | Jul 9, 2013 |
I didn't *mean* to finish this book in two days. It just kind of happened. I don't quite know how to describe it - not horror, because it wasn't especially scary, but something more than fantasy. It reminds me most strongly of the film The Orphanage. ( )
  jen.e.moore | Mar 30, 2013 |
After being haunted by nightmares, Charlotte and her 2 young charges take a walk in the woods and find the House of Darkling; a living cabinet of curiosities, full of the dead returned and eternal monsters... What follows is an amazing gothic horror, in fact- probably one of the most original and exciting books in any genre that I've read all year! I'm trying and failing to avoid hyperbole but it's becasue there is genuinely so much to enjoy in this book.
It's refreshing to read a book that isn't scared to play with expectations and tropes of genre, and Michael Boccacino doesn't disappoint. I especially loved Charlotte- the hardened governess/nanny who is the novel's narrator and protagonist. The setting is pseudo-victorian, the atmosphere is that of a creaky old ghost story and the monsters are full on dimension-bursting Lovecraft. Beyond the great writing and imagery, the story has heart and meaning. I thought that difficult themes of death, grief and moving on are handled really well.
Now to read the online epilogue that I've just found! http://michaelboccacino.com/bedtime-stories-an-epilogue-to-charlotte-markham-and... ( )
  Rubbah | Dec 20, 2012 |
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For my mother
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Every night I dreamt of the dead.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0062122614, Paperback)

When the nanny to the young Darrow boys is found  murdered on the outskirts of Blackfield, Charlotte Markham, the recently hired governess, steps in to take over their care. During an outing in the forest, they find themselves crossing over into The Ending, the place for the Things That Cannot Die, where Lily Darrow, the late mistress of Everton, has been waiting. She invites them into the ominous House of Darkling, a wondrous, dangerous place filled with enchantment, mystery and strange creatures that appear to be, but are not quite, human.

However, everything comes with a price, and as Charlotte begins to understand the unspeakable bargain Mrs. Darrow has made for a second chance at motherhood, she uncovers a connection to the sinister occurrences in Blackfield and enters into a deadly game with the master of Darkling, one whose outcome will determine not just the fate of the Darrows, but of the world itself.

Charlotte Markham and the House of Darkling is a Victorian gothic tale about family ties, the realm beyond the living, and the price you pay to save those you love.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:58:48 -0400)

"When the nanny to the young Darrow boys is found mysteriously murdered on the outskirts of the village of Blackfield, Charlotte Markham, the recently hired governess, steps in to take over their care. During an outing in the forest, they find themselves crossing over into The Ending, "the place for the Things Above Death," where Lily Darrow, the late mother of the children, has been waiting. She invites them into the House of Darkling, a wondrous place filled with enchantment, mystery, and strange creatures that appear to be, but are not quite, human. However, everything comes with a price, and as Charlotte begins to understand the unspeakable bargain Mrs. Darrow has made for a second chance at motherhood, she uncovers a connection to the sinister occurrences in Blackfield and enters into a deadly game with the master of Darkling -- one whose outcome will determine the fate of not just the Darrows, but the world itself ..." P. [4] of cover.… (more)

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